UCLA's Kevin Prince looking to keep health issues behind him
Prince's freshman season at UCLA was a rough one, starting with a sore right shoulder in training camp through the separated right shoulder he suffered in the regular-season finale against USC. In between, he suffered a broken jaw and a concussion.
But Prince spent the first day of practice Monday making it perfectly clear that those were problems he has left in the past. Prince was impressive, with an increased velocity on his throws and a delicate touch when needed.
“Kevin Prince is a leader now,” tailback Johnathan Franklin said. “Last year, he was trying to figure things out, find his role. He has become the guy everyone follows.”
Prince's role has been increased on the field as well. The Bruins have adopted the “pistol” offense, which will require the quarterback to run.
The change led Prince to beef up to 230 pounds “so I can take more hits,” he said. But concerns among Bruins fans were also beefed up.
Prince’s exploits as a runner caused Bruins fans to cheer, and cringe, last season. He had a 68-yard touchdown run against Washington State. He also suffered a broken jaw against Tennessee and a concussion against Washington. Both times he was scrambling.
But Prince said his plan was still to barrel ahead on runs, though he will use discretion.
“Obviously if it is a very important first down, I got to go get it,” Prince said. He qualified that by saying, “Any situation where there’s a chance to get a first down, you try to get it.”
But, he said, “other times I will get down.”
Remembering to do that even when instincts take over is the trick.
Said Prince: “Before the play, I get in a situation where I’m scrambling, I have to decide whether to get out of bounds or not.”
In other words, little has changed given Prince’s competitive nature.
Coach Rick Neuheisel is unconcerned. He said that Nevada, which developed the “pistol,” does not use the quarterback on power runs.
“Nevada runs their quarterback off the edge,” said Neuheisel, who also said the plan was to have Prince run just enough to make the defense account for him.
When healthy, as Prince obviously was on Monday, he is a constant threat throwing the ball. Even with the injuries, Prince threw for 2,050 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
Though only the first day, his effectiveness Monday seemed an indication that he will improve on those numbers. He threw three long touchdown passes during one seven-on-seven drill.
It was a far different scene from a year ago, when Prince was bothered by a sore shoulder near his labrum from the outset. The continuing discomfort forced him to sit out a practice.
“I got an MRI, and they didn’t see anything,” Prince said. “They said they could go in and scrape it, but that’s risky. I decided to just rehab it and strengthen everything around it.”Prince said, “I was in the training room two or three times a week getting treatment. The training staff did a good job getting me back to full strength.”
-- Chris Foster
Photo: UCLA's Kevin Prince participates in a quarterback drill during a team practice session on Monday. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times